As of right now, Johnson has a staggering 2012 cap hit of $22 million. Getting that number down to even a reasonable number could allow them to work out a long-term extension for DE Cliff Avril and possibly even retain some of their free agents.
The real problem with this situation is that Johnson has as much leverage as anyone could possibly hold. He doesn’t have to rush to get a deal done because he’ll be a free agent after the 2012 season and, on top of that, he’s coming off of one of the best seasons a wide receiver has ever put together.
Detroit with have to look at offering a deal close to Larry Fitzgeralds‘ record deal to get something done.
Birkett also reports that ILB Stephen Tulloch is the free agent that’s “most destined” to test the open market next week.
Detroit has yet to make any significant progress in regards to a long-term extension with Tulloch. Brikett mentions that the Lions could begin to look for his replacement assuming that no significant progress is made in the coming days.
We have Tulloch listed as the #9 best available free agent in out Top 50 Free Agents list.
Birkett does mention that he expects to see OT Jeff Backus to sign a short-term contract with the Lions at some point.
Backus, 34, is coming off of a torn bicep which will definitely be a concern for any team that’s interested in his services but a considering that offensive tackles are not something that you’ll often find in free agency, he could still generate some amount of interest.